Trust-land money for schools fell in 2017, report says
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The Elliott State Forest northeast of Coos Bay was created in 1930 by consolidating state lands dedicated to producing revenue for public schools.
Oregon forestland income for schools fell 87 percent in 2017, largely because Elliott State Forest timber sales ended, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry’s annual report.
Common School Forest Land produced $395,000 for the Common School Fund in the year ending June 30, 2017. For 2016, the forestlands earned $2.9 million, but as recently as 2014, the lands lost money. The five-year average is $342,000 per year.
The State Land Board held its first regular meeting since October on Tuesday, and Elliot State Forest issues took up much of the discussion.
The Oregon Department of Forestry manages 117,000 acres of Common School Fund forest lands, including 82,500 acres in the Elliott, northeast of Coos Bay. By law, revenue from the lands goes to the Common School Fund to support public schools. In recent years, restrictions on logging and calls for public use and habitat protection have drastically reduced the lands’ income. OSBA has pressed the State Land Board to fulfill its fiduciary duty to manage the lands to maximize schools’ benefit.
The Department of State Lands is working to remove the land from the Common School Fund while retaining state control to protect sensitive habitat areas. Titan-Kelly LLC signed a contract last year to manage and care for the forest for about $800,000 a year. No new timber sales were made on the Elliott in 2017, and previous contracts were wrapped up.
The Department of State Lands is the administrative arm of the three-member State Land Board: Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and State Treasurer Tobias Read.
The 2017 Legislature provided $100 million in bonding to compensate the Common School Fund for lost Elliott income. Those bonds are scheduled to be issued in February 2019. In January, the department signed a contract with Oregon Consensus, a public-policy mediation program, to develop a decoupling plan by spring 2019.
The department is also working on a Habitat Conservation Plan that would allow logging on parts of the Elliott. On Feb. 6, DSL issued a request for proposals for a contractor to develop the plan. Creating a conservation plan generally takes about two years, and the Elliott plan is expected to be implemented in July 2021.